The structural materials used to build fighter jets have not changed much over the years. Composite materials, introduced in 4th-generation planes, continue to be a major source of innovation and may eventually transform the structure of fighter planes. Still, there is little possibility of composite materials replacing the entire frame of a fighter jet. Currently, companies around the world are working to improve the design and reduce the costs of composite materials.
Materials and microelectronics technologies would combine to make the aircraft a large integrated sensor, possibly eliminating the need for nose radar as it is known today. It would be equipped for making cyber attacks as well as achieving kinetic effects, but would still have to be cost-effective to make, service, and modify.
Aircraft of the 4.5th generation with limited stealth features avoid radar detection by using low-absorbable design features and controlling their heat and sound, but advances in detection methods have largely countered these advantages. Radar absorbent materials used on the surfaces of the F-22 and F-35 aircraft are the newest forms of stealth capabilities and are engineered to absorb and dissipate radar signals and also to hide them from advanced detection systems. However, advanced integrated air defence systems may already be capable of detecting these through thermal and infra-red sensor systems. The next steps in stealth technology are therefore nano-particles, i.e. materials fashioned from microscopic structures, and meta-material. Such advanced exterior skins would manipulate radar and light and sound waves, making aircraft potentially undetectable, even by advanced radars.
Multi-spectral stealth, which is still a largely experimental field, builds on advances in nano‑technology and meta-materials. To become low-observable in multiple spectrums, advanced skins manage a plane’s heat distribution to foil radar, infrared, and thermal detection systems. These skins do this by distorting or eliminating heat distribution to restructure its thermal shape. They may also be able to heat up or cool down all parts of an aircraft’s surface to perfectly match the surrounding atmosphere, making it virtually undetectable. Future developments in skin designs could take these advances even further and produce materials able to bend light and create ‘invisibility cloaks’.
6th-generation fighter jets may also be able to initiate self-healing repairs while in the air .Lockheed Martin is currently working on an airplane prototype that has mechanical veins running throughout its external structure. These veins are filled with two products (a liquid resin and a hardener) that would immediately solidify upon contact with air. If any of these veins break, i.e. the plane is damaged; the resin and hardener would immediately fill cracks and reinforce vulnerable areas of the aircraft.
Advances in fibre optics, i.e. glass wires transferring information at the speed of light, will reform the anatomy of aircraft hardwiring. Traditionally, planes carry miles of heavily shielded copper wire to connect components. Fibre optic transmission would allow the plane to instantaneously process larger amounts of data through many channels, using wires slightly thicker than a human hair. Fibre optic cables are also more resistant to cyber‑attacks because transmission is based on light waves. Fibre optic systems would also be less expensive to upgrade and are more resistant to harsh environmental conditions and is light weight.
Using these kinds of materials SiGFA would be extremely stealthy and could incorporate features allowing it to change its shape in flight, “morphing” to optimize for either speed or persistence.
Today, integrated sensors on 5th-generation aircraft give pilots 360-degree vision, electro‑optical scanning, and targeting abilities to locate and track enemy forces. Pilots use this system to identify fixed and moving targets simultaneously, covering large areas around the aircraft. 5th-generation aircraft also work as information gatherers that instantly send all their sensor feeds back to the command centre.
Next-generation aircraft will combine all of these features into a more detailed and comprehensive system. The range of the sensors will dramatically increase as well as their ability to recognise relevant battle developments and process complex mission planning. Instead of separate sensors and radar, the entire skin of a 6th-generation fighter could function as a large integrated sensor .Through improvements in nano-technology and composite skins, sensor capabilities could be embedded in areas of a jet previously off-limits due to heat and surface reasons. This would present a much more comprehensive view of the battlefield. The sensor skin would give the plane increased processing capabilities and possibly automatic target recognition capabilities. In short, the aircraft would be able to automatically identify objects, buildings, and even people.
The possibility of the next sixth generation fighter being fully autonomous is minimal. However, some form of artificial intelligence that integrates sensors and information will be possible. Using artificial intelligence we can make the aircraft “smart”, to learn and propose the best possible action to the controlling crew/ pilot. The aircraft will collect its own data and seamlessly fuse it with off-board sensors, including those on other aircraft.
The weapons field is rapidly evolving and within twenty years could completely change the way a 6th-generation fighter jet engages enemy targets.
SiGFA will be able to “learn” and advise the pilot as to what actions to take—specifically, whether a target should be incapacitated temporarily, damaged, or destroyed.
In addition, the evolution of directed energy weapons, such as lasers, could reshape the tactics of fighter aircraft by 2030. Although high powered lasers and microwave weapons have existed for decades, technological advances are making them feasible and safe to use on board aircraft in the near future. Traditional chemical based lasers were greatly handicapped by their size, weight, and energy use. But new electrically powered solid-state lasers and high powered microwaves are touted as promising alternatives with limitless ammunition. Less precise than lasers, directed microwave weapons emit short pulses of radiation which can disrupt electronic systems and physically burn out unshielded systems. Within 10 to 20 years, both directed microwaves and solid-state lasers could be added to small aircraft. If properly developed, directed energy weapons will thus facilitate new methods of disabling enemy electronic systems and precisely eliminating threats. This kind of Speed of light could negate the importance of the maneuverability we see in today’s fashionable fighters. There won’t be time to maneuver away from a directed energy attack.
As of current technological advancements, lasers would likely be employed as defensive weapons at ranges of 10-15 nautical miles against incoming missiles or small enemy unmanned aerial vehicles. Lasers of the 150kw class can burn through the casings of enemy missiles which will cause them to veer off course or damage the missile's seeker rendering the missile unable to function. As lasers continue to improve in power, cooling, and miniaturization, it is conceivable they could be employed against enemy fighter aircraft in the far future.
SiGFA may also use Pulse weapons that could fry an enemy aircraft’s systems in the next 20 years that type of technology is going to be available.
To power the DEW an appropriate engine—possibly an auxiliary engine—on board to provide power for directed energy weapons, there could be an “unlimited magazine” of shots.
An un conventional weapon that may be incorporate in SiGFA is cyber attack. The aircraft while being cyber reliant would be capable of carrying out cyber attacks.
Fighter jets of the 6th generation will likely advance network centric warfare substantially. A fighter jet will serve as an individual network command centre, continuously determining mission prerogatives and transmitting them to own or allied unmanned aerial, ground, and naval vehicles. Such jets will have the capacity to operate numerous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) conceived for more specific tasks, which will accompany the plane in group formations. These UAV wingmen could take verbal instructions and be able to complete complex tasks.
GALIUM NITRADE AVIONICS & ELECTRONIC WARFARE SYSTEM
GaN based AESAs and electronic warfare systems will revolutionize fighter avionics over the next two decades with substantial increases in performance and cooling over existing Gallium Arsenide (GaA) based arrays:
GaN has anywhere from five to 10 times the power density, which is the amount of electrical energy a chip can handle relative to its size. A GaN chip can handle more than double the voltage and amperage of a similarly sized GaAs chip. GaN also has up to seven times the thermal conductivity of the older material, which allows it to run hotter. That means lower cooling requirements and greater amounts of electrical power. In basic terms, a radio transmitter based on GaN technology could put out "an order of magnitude more" power than a similar GaAs-based transmitter, or conversely, produce the same power yet take up a fraction of the volume. It could also operate over far more frequency bands. a GaN-based active electronically scanned array radar could search five times the volume as a similarly sized GaAs-based radar, or at a 50 percent greater range. You could even halve the size of the radar and still deliver greater performance.